Teach Us, Lord, Full Obedience
The 6th Sunday of Easter
Teach Us, Lord, Full Obedience
Text: John 14:23-29
This last week a boat was found off the coast of Bermuda by a Norwegian vessel ship. Quickly it was identified as the boat of Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos, the two 14-year-olds who left on a fishing trip from Jupiter, FL 10 months ago and who have been missing ever since. The two boys are still missing and now some are wondering if foul play was involved.
Speaking of investigations, there are plenty of others going on. The FBI recently paid almost $1 million to unlock (semi-legally) an iPhone connected to the San Bernadino mass shooting. Investigations are also continuing 10 days after the music industry lost legendary musician Prince, as to what exactly was his cause of death. Then there was the tragic death of the two-year-old who drowned in her grandparents’ swimming pool in Port Orange Thursday night.
Also making the headlines this week was another baseball player, this one from the Miami Marlins, who was banned 80 games for steroids and the controversial football player drafted Thursday night by the Miami Dolphins who has found himself in a social media firestorm for past poor decisions. (Not a good week for Miami sports.) Oh, and who could leave out the headlines of the 20 arrested during the mini-riot at the Donald Trump rally on Thursday night?
Just another week in world news, right? It’s hard to know what to think anymore. These days I don’t even know what bathroom I should go into anymore or if I should boycott or protest, or protest by refusing to boycott and protest!? What is this world coming to?
Some days I’m confused. Some days I’m frustrated. Some days I’m saddened. Some days I’m downright distraught. One bad news story after another, one traumatic tragedy after another, one day of heartache and heartbreak after another. This all leaves us with hearts that are so troubled. Oh how we need Jesus!
That’s when Christians smile and say, “That’s right, we need some Jesus in our lives, and I’m glad I love me some Jesus!” The problem is, many Christians today often miss the mark on what it means to love Jesus. Loving Jesus is more than reading Chicken Soup for the Soul and listening to Christian radio music. Loving Jesus is more than having a catchy bumper sticker or cross earrings and necklaces or having a Bible verse tattoo. And loving Jesus is more than meandering into a church once in a while, bumbling through a few hymns, and mumbling a couple Amen’s.
If we really want to have a right relationship with Jesus because we really do love Jesus, then we ought to listen to him about what exactly that entails. So we turn our attention today to the Gospel to hear what our Lord teaches. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”
These are words not just from Jesus as he was walking this earth but straight from our Father in heaven, and they are words that are cut and dry, black and white, clear as day. Jesus presents what every disciple would want—a right relationship with God where the Father loves us and he comes to us with his Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit and God makes his home with us. How wonderful that would be! If you want that, it’s quite easy. Jesus says, “Love me.” But Jesus adds this important qualifier, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (Literally, cling to his words.) And contrarily, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” The one who doesn’t love Jesus is the one who doesn’t obey Jesus.
Maybe this right relationship with God isn’t so easy after all. Jesus leaves his disciples some thinking to do about our lives. You might have a neat little religious tattoo. You might have a Jesus fish on your car. You might have an inspirational picture on your wall and a Bible on your bookshelf. You might even come to church on a fairly regular basis.
But then you walk out these doors and things change a bit perhaps. You revert to the habits of treating your spouse miserably and your children with pathetic impatience. Your heart seethes with anger. Your eyes sop up smut. Your ears soak in gossip like a sponge. Your mouth spews dirty jokes, is seasoned with swears, and even tosses in an overdose of OMGs to make your talk extra spicy. Your church attendance is sporadic. Your Bible reading and prayer life are abysmal. Your offerings are whatever you have left over.
“But I love Jesus,” we say. “I have a Jesus picture. I own a Bible. I go to church.” That’s when Jesus replies, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” Even if the words, “I love Jesus,” come out of my mouth, according to Jesus I don’t really love him if I don’t obey him. And if I don’t really love Jesus, he and his Father along with the Spirit won’t come and make their home with me.
We can say it again, but this time for a different reason—Oh how we need Jesus! My relationship with him which is supposed to be close, personal, and so loving has been fractured by my disobedience and sin. My love for Jesus has failed, so I need him to step in and fix what is fractured with his love for me. And that is precisely what he has done.
Jesus’ original disciples were in the exact same spot we are in now. They were struggling. They were struggling with what was going on around them in the world. They were confused by what Jesus was teaching them. Certainly they felt guilty as they considered what it really means to love Jesus.
But Jesus had the solution for the troubled hearts of his disciples, and that solution was coming soon. The words we hear Jesus speaking to them today were spoken on Maundy Thursday, half a day away from Jesus being crucified. Here’s what he told his disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
These are the words of someone who would be leaving soon. “All this I have spoken while still with you . . . The Holy Spirit will remind you of everything I have said . . . Peace I leave you.” Jesus was going to be leaving them because his work was drawing to a close. Soon, within hours, Jesus was going to show them what loving obedience really looks like as he would become obedient even to death on a cross.
For all of us disciples who struggle to love him with true and full obedience, Jesus was going to offer himself as our substitute. His obedience for our disobedience. His perfection for our imperfection. His righteousness for our unrighteousness. His death in place of the death we deserve. This would be true love and true obedience to his Father’s plan for salvation.
So when God looks at you and says, “I expect true love and full obedience from you,” you can reply, “I have done so, because Jesus’ love and obedience belong to me.” And when God looks at you and says, “The wages of sin is death, you need to pay for your sin,” you can reply and say, “I did, because Jesus’ innocent death for sin belongs to me too.”
This is what Jesus meant for his disciples back then and for us today when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Jesus doesn’t end all wars and bring world peace. Jesus doesn’t subvert terrorists. Jesus doesn’t disarm nukes or make your enemies hold your hand and sing Kumbaya. And Jesus doesn’t make you win the Powerball either. Far better than that. Jesus gives to you peace. He gives you that right relationship with God, a relationship that is close, personal, and so loving because all your sin is forgiven. That is what gives you peace in your heart.
The perfect message for disciples on that night and for us now who have troubled hearts. When we are confused or saddened or downright distraught with what we see going on around us in this world, Jesus’ words ring loud and clear, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Whatever troubles may surround us, trouble and fear need not fill our hearts because we have peace with God now and into eternity through Jesus.
The 11 disciples left in the Upper Room that night were still struggling with this. Like us, they had thick skulls and were slow to process the information. Jesus addressed this in the last paragraph, “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” If they really loved Jesus and really understood Jesus, they would have been happy for him. He was about to accomplish the mission for which he was sent. He was about to win the world salvation. And then he was going to return to his Father with the mission done and salvation won. As to his humble human life, the Father was greater. Jesus was going to be exalted in glory and return to heaven where he is equal to the Father in glory and majesty. The disciples should have been happy for this. But they didn’t get it. So Jesus said, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” Only later when this was all done would they fully understand what Jesus is talking about.
At times we might struggle like those disciples. “What’s this all about, Jesus? Why aren’t you here anymore? Why did you have to leave? Why couldn’t you stay and establish your kingdom here?” Rather, we too should be glad that Jesus accomplished his mission and has been exalted in glory on high as the Savior of the world.
Our struggle to put all the pieces together and to understand our purpose in this world brings us to one last key component we skipped over–the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in verse 26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” It is the Holy Spirit’s job now to strengthen your faith and fill you with knowledge, joy, and resolve for godly living in this world as he reminds you what Jesus taught. So when we have troubled hearts, the Spirit reminds us of our Savior Jesus Christ and the peace that he gives us. When we are struggling with showing our love for God, the Spirit reminds us of what our God commands us to do.
You are actually experiencing this right here, right now. Today you heard the words of Jesus about what it really means to love him—that if you truly love him you will obey him. Those words convicted our hearts and brought guilt and grief. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit reminding you of God’s commands and crushing a sinful heart. But then you also heard about the peace that Jesus leaves for you, his peace which the world cannot give. It’s a peace with God now and forever because of your Savior Jesus. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit reminding you of God’s grace and refreshing your heart with forgiveness.
And right now, with a troubled heart that is calmed and filled with peace, the Holy Spirit is driving you with zeal to burst out these doors into a crazy mixed up world and show true love for Jesus. The Spirit is the one who will lead you tell others what that cross necklace and Jesus fish window cling really mean to you. The Spirit is the one who will lead you to open the Bible that’s on your shelf. The Spirit is the one who will lead you to change the tone of your Facebook messages, and to make choices with patience and wisdom, and to communicate with love and respect, and to let your light shine in all that you do.
As we watch or read the headlines day after day, it’s hard to know what to make of all the wickedness, danger, and disaster around us. So we fervently pray, Teach Us, Lord, Full Obedience, and today Jesus certainly does. Full obedience starts with him and his loving obedience to his Father. That loving obedience in his life and death for us brings us peace. That peace calms our troubled hearts. That peace then spills over with strength from the Spirit to truly love Jesus by obeying his commands.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” because Jesus does not give you as the world gives. He gives you peace—peace to love him, peace to live for him, and peace to obey him.
So, “May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”